Popular cooking school collapses
She's the bubbly blonde chef who claimed to run one of Brisbane's most popular cooking schools over the past nine years.
But Mel Alafaci's business, Vanilla Zulu Pty Ltd, has fallen victim to the pandemic, another sad casualty in the hospitality sector.
The award-winning native of Zimbabwe succumbed to the squeeze this week, appointing bean counter Leon Lee of Morton & Lee Insolvency as liquidator of her solely-owned firm.
The move follows the closure of her Teneriffe-based school in March, when she pivoted to online workshops and cooking demos in a desperate bid to stay afloat. The venue subsequently reopened.
Alafaci, who jointly owns a $1.3 million home in Newmarket with her IT executive hubby, declined to comment when City Beat rang for a chat on Friday. "I really don't want to discuss it. It's quite traumatic,'' she said.
Lee did not return calls seeking information on how many creditors are out there and how much they are owed.
Company records show Alafaci still remains in control of an intact related entity, Vanilla Zulu Culinary Adventures Pty Ltd, which only sprang to life last November.
THE HAPPY CHEF
Alafaci launched her Vanilla Zulu enterprise in Brisbane in 2011 after emigrating from South Africa, where she started her first cooking school in Durban almost 20 years ago.
She quickly gained a reputation as someone who could show clients how to have fun in the kitchen, delighting in nicknames such as "the happy chef'' or "the foodie godmother". Some even dubbed her the "queen of culinary bling''.
At one point Alafaci claimed Vanilla Zulu (which for some reason only got registered with ASIC in late 2017) was growing 60 per cent a year and had tripled in size since opening the doors.
A blogger, media personality and author of several recipe books, she acted as a host and presenter at the Ekka's cooking school and celebrity chef stages this time last year.
Alafaci has also served as an ambassador for a number of well-known businesses, including Crystal Bay prawns and Movenpick Ice Cream as well as NEFF and Bosch appliances.
In addition, she spent time as a consultant for leading food producers and worked with big corporates, including Accor Hotels, BDO, Hilton Hotels, IKEA, Optus, Origin, Shell, Suncorp, Virgin, Telstra and Westpac.
When COVID-19 forced the school to close earlier this year, Alafaci used stock that could have gone to waste and whipped up 50 jars of panna cotta for the staff at the Mater Hospital's intensive care unit.
"We had to make a happy situation out of a really crappy one," she said at the time.
"The doctors and the nurses and all sorts were able to enjoy them, and that's the least we could do. I thought they needed a bit of something to lighten up their day … I knew dessert would work."
There's more to the Vanilla Zulu yarn so stay tuned. More will be revealed next week!
Speaking of hospitality dramas, the Brisbane-based company behind a bar tab paying app has collapsed.
A Liquidator has taken control of Clipp Pty Ltd, which launched in 2013 and allowed app users to get last-minute discounts of up to 40 per cent at the pub and also featured a loyalty rewards program.
Co-founded by entrepreneur Greg Taylor, the business was worth about $8m at its peak after listed firm Mobile Embrace paid $4.7m to acquire a 72 per cent stake in 2015.
The app was used by about 700 venues across the nation, including more than half of the 330 pubs in the ALH Group owned by Woolworths.
Taylor stepped down in 2017 and current sole director Melanie Wright could not be reached for comment on Friday. Liquidator Liam Bellamy did not return a call seeking comment.
Originally published as Popular Brisbane cooking school collapses